The top 10 stories of 2016

In many ways it was a year we’d like to forget, but the UAlberta community gave us reasons to remember it with pride.


When historians look back on 2016, they might remember it as the year the extreme became the expected.

We witnessed the greatest mass exodus of refugees since the Second World War. An entire city in northern Alberta was evacuated from a forest fire that grew so intense it became known as “The Beast.” The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. And if that weren’t enough, all semblance of normalcy was lost with the election of Donald Trump to the White House.

But throughout a year that at times felt like the whole world had come unmoored and often made us wonder whether there was anything we could count on, our campus community showed that the noblest values—pursuit of truth, passion for discovery, compassion for others and respect for diversity—will always have a place at the University of Alberta.

  1. Grace under fire
    Last spring, the dorms and dining halls of Lister Centre became a lifeline to 1,200 Fort McMurray residents. Welcoming and sheltering such a large group for two months was a major undertaking that tested the mettle of the university’s staff and leadership teams. When it was over, it marked one of the proudest chapters in the university’s history.

  2. UAlberta maintains strong standing among world’s top 100
    This year’s QS World University Rankings brought good news as the U of A moved up two spots overall to 94th in the world, remained fourth in Canada and ranked among the world’s top 200 in 33 of the 42 areas considered in the subject-specific rankings.

  3. ‘The world has turned,’ Stephen Lewis warns future leaders
    With characteristic fire and eloquence, the former UN ambassador delivered a convocation address for the ages, decrying the forces of inequality and intolerance taking hold worldwide and issuing an impassioned plea to the class of 2016 to stem the rising tide.

  4. To get the flu shot or not to get the flu shot
    Infectious disease expert Lynora Saxinger reminded us that it’s not “just the flu” anymore, and that getting immunized is the right thing to do for you and everyone around you.

  5. Rhodes Scholar rekindles childhood passion for global problem-solving
    Inspired by the young, resourceful heroes of books like the Harry Potter series, Yasmin Rafiei is headed to the real-life Hogwarts, “where imagination goes to become reality.”

  6. Catch ‘em all, sure. But does Pokémon Go signal the rise of augmented reality?
    It was the gaming equivalent of a summer fling—a creature-catching craze that swept the globe and had roving packs of phone-wielding players crowding PokéStops all over campus. Wonder what they’re doing now...

  7. Space tsunami causes third Van Allen belt
    U of A space physicists shed new light on how Earth’s protective radiation belts form—a discovery that helps us understand the surprisingly stormy weather of space and could help prevent trillions in damage to satellites and electrical power grids.

  8. Deep Minds master the game of Go
    AlphaGo, a computer program built by a team at Google led by U of A grads, swept the European Go champion in five straight games. It went on to beat the world’s strongest player, Lee Sedol, four games to one. Now we hear it’s trying to beat Pokémon Go...

  9. Community stands against racism in wake of ‘disturbing’ posters
    It wasn’t even a month into the 2016-17 school year when the posters appeared, bearing a hateful message that shook the U of A campus. But not for long: that same week, two presidents stood shoulder to shoulder to deliver their own message of unity: “We’re going to make it awkward for people who do this and we’re going to celebrate our diversity.” The turban tie-in event that happened the next week was even more awesome.

  10. The race against Zika
    While most of us were first hearing of a strange, new and dangerous mosquito-borne virus linked with a spike in birth defects in South America, U of A virologist Tom Hobman and his team were already looking for ways to diagnose and treat it.